It might be gray and gloomy outside though brighter days are on the horizon. Take a moment to relax and visualize the crashing waves. Sound divine? It is and now is the time to plan a family beach trip. Spring Break is weeks away and summer creeps closer by the day. To find the best beaches for families in the US, National Parks TravelingMom pulled together a list of beaches for animal lovers, shellers and sunset worshippers.

The Best Beaches for families in the US

Navarre Beach, near Pensacola, Florida, offer families sugar white sand and turquoise blue water. Photo Credit: Allison Bean Taylor / Research TravelingMom

As a Traveling Mom that’s driven across the continental US, friends always ask what’s my favorite beach. Kinda like asking me which kid I like best. So depending on your destination and interests, I’ve pulled together a list of the best beaches in the US for families.

Best Beaches for Animal Watching

Kids love beaches as much as kids love animals. So I love to explore beaches that combine both.

The Best Beaches for families in the US

Kids love animals so why not visit a beach to watch whales like Lime Kiln State Park in Washington. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker / National Parks TravelingMom

Lime Kiln State Park, San Juan Island, Washington

Whale watching usually requires a boat except on San Juan Island, a short ferry ride from the Seattle area. Lime Kiln State Park offers seasonally orca whale watching from their rocky shore. And I found a lighthouse too.

San Juan National Historical Park

American Camp offers another spot to catch the resident pod of orcas which has a larger beach. Located on San Juan Island, an island getaway in Washington.

The Best Beaches for families in the US

My kids loved watching the Elephant Seals at the Hearst San Simeon State Beach, though keep a safe distance. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker / National Parks TravelingMom

Hearst San Simeon State Park, San Simeon, California

Elephant seals nap along the beach in a large rookery. The Hearst San Simeon State Park offers a boardwalk to safely watch the massive seals. During our visit in June, the males fought each other for mating rights with bellows and battles to the delight of my 9 and 12-year-old sons.

The Best Beaches for families in the US

Kids love tide pools to sneak a peek into a tiny marine world during low tide like the ones at Beach 4 in Olympic National Park in Washington. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker / National Parks TravelingMom

Beach 4 or Ruby Beach, Olympic National Park, Washington

My kids scampered over rocks and waded through shallow water to explore the tide pools. We found ribbed limpets, acorn barnacles, and giant green anemones. My kids loved this experience and talked about it for days.

Padre Island National Seashore, Texas

Kids are crazy for sea turtles. Padre Island National Seashore offers five different varieties of Gulf of Mexico sea turtles, including the Kemp’s ridley. Hatchling releases happen in the spring granting families the opportunity to witness the tiny turtles make their way to the water.

The best beaches for families in the US? Pulled together a list with different types of beaches, likes the best beaches to watch animals or the best beaches to shell along with the best white sand beaches.

Looking for a beach for your family getaway? Got a list of best white sand beaches and the best beaches for a sunset.

Best Beaches for White Sand

Think all sand is white? Nope, it ranges in colors like grey, straw, black, pink and white. True white sand beaches are hard to find, and my favorite white sand beaches are located along the Gulf of Mexico in the Florida panhandle and Alabama. And of course. Hawaii is a family travel bucket list destination offering sand in a rainbow of colors.

Florida Beaches along 30-A

From Pensacola to Panama City, on the Florida’s panhandle, families can find miles of white sugar sand beaches on Highway 30-A, a scenic byway lined with beach towns. A family favorite for years, the beaches remain uncrowded except around the larger towns. For day visitors, Grayton Beach State Park in the town of Santa Rosa Beach, offers parking and rinse-off showers, my family’s favorite.

Gulf Shores, Alabama

Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama, offers families 32 miles of white sand beaches. Try Gulf State Park for a pavilion and restrooms with showers for a family day at the beach.

The Best Beaches for families in the US

The Napili Kai Beach Resort on Maui offers families a protected beach to discover. Photo Credit: Diane Rowe / Traveling Grandmom

Napili Kai Beach, Maui, Hawaii

For families who want a Hawaiian resort beach to enjoy the sunset, Maui’s Napili Kai Beach Resort offers all-inclusive convenience for beach-loving families. Clear water with rock outcroppings allows for family water adventures, like paddle boarding and snorkeling, close to the beach.

Best Beaches for Shelling

A list of the best beaches for families in the US list has to include a few shelling beaches. While my kids fly kites or make sand castles, I stroll along the waterline looking for shells.

The Best Beaches for families in the US

On San Diego’s Coronado Island, Silver Strand State Beach offers a prime spot for shelling with kids. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker / National Parks TravelingMom

Silver Strand State Beach, Coronado Island, California

During a recent visit, I squealed when I found several whole sand dollars during my walk. I found lots of shells along this popular stretch of San Diego beach.

Sanibel Island, Florida

A barrier island near Ft. Myers, Sanibel Island offers some of the best shelling because of the east-to-west orientation of the beach. Depending on the season, shellers can find conch, Lightening Welk and cockle shells.

The Best Beaches for families in the US

On California’s Central Coast, Moonstone Beach offers a chance to walk along a beach made of tiny tumbled stones, like jade and bloodstone. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker / National Parks TravelingMom

Moonstone Beach, Hearst San Simeon State Park, California

Beaches offer more than shells. At Moonstone Beach, on the central California coast, I found tiny tumbled moonstone, jade, bloodstone along the waterline. Dig a little deeper for the larger stones and stay for the sunset.

Best Beaches for Catching a Sunset

West coast beaches can’t be beat for sunsets. Catch the fiery sun as it dips below the horizon and watch the sky fade from aubergine to indigo.

Will Rogers State Beach, Pacific Palisades, California

This popular beach close to Santa Monica offers families a place to watch the sun fall below the horizon in a kaleidoscope of color. It offers more parking than nearby beaches.

The Best Beaches for families in the US

The historic Hotel del Coronado offers a large stretch of sand with rental chairs and lots of space for castle building. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker / National Parks TravelingMom

Coronado Central Beach, Coronado Island, California

With the Victorian Hotel del Coronado as a backdrop, it’s San Diego’s most picturesque beach. On the largest stretch of sand, families can rent chairs, fly a kite or make a sand castle. The Hotel del Coronado offers rentals along with restaurants for day visitors and hotel staff can even arrange a campfire with s’mores.

Beach Tips from a TravelingMom:

  • Parking is always an issue at the beach on summer weekends.
  • Arrive early and bring cash for parking.
  • Pack a cooler full of snacks if spending the whole day, like fresh fruit and lots of water.
  • National and State park prohibit taking shells or driftwood off their beaches.